Canalys: Global PC market will grow this year only thanks to tablets

A new forecast from Canalys provides another glimmer of hope for PC makers -- if they pay attention to the right form factor.

Countless reports have come out over the last few months lamenting the massive downturn for the global PC industry.

Yet a new forecast from Canalys provides another glimmer of hope.

According to the market insight firm, global shipments are expected to grow by seven percent on an annual basis to approximately 493.1 million units by the end of 2013. That estimate encompasses desktops, notebooks and tablets.

But out of those three, the tablet category forms the biggest catalyst.

Accounting for 37 percent of the market on its own, tablet shipments alone are projected to grow by 59 percent to reach 182.5 million units this year.

To break that down even more, researchers argued that the growth of the tablet segment is being fueled by lower-cost Android tablets, citing Acer, Asus and Hewlett-Packard as the primary vendors winning the market worldwide.

The lesson to be extract here could be based on the form factor.

Researchers stressed the tablets in the style of the iPad mini are the real success stories here.

Canalys analyst James Wang explained further in the report that new form factors -- especially those running Windows 8 -- just haven't lived up to the hope and expectations for them this time last year.

These convertible products have disappointed so far. Convertibles are too heavy in tablet form and too expensive when compared with clamshell products. Canalys therefore expects that, for at least the next 18 months, consumers will buy separate products, rather than compromise on a Windows 8 convertible or hybrid PC. Even for Android products, alternative form factors are not expected to grow rapidly due to the category being sandwiched between low-cost slates and more familiar Windows-based clamshell notebooks.

For reference, Canalys defined a convertible PC as "a notebook with keyboard/second screen that can be converted to a tablet form factor," while a hybrid is "tablet that is designed by its manufacturer to be fixed to a keyboard accessory with a hinge."

Wang added that out of the 388.1 million mobile PCs (meaning both tablets and laptops) expected to ship this year, only two percent of those will likely be hybrid or convertible PCs.